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Lost in Luxury: Climate Change and Silk Consumption in Mid-Qing China (1735–1840 CE)

Qiu, Mengyuan ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5156-9537, Pei, Qing ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-9699-2950, Lo, Alex ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-5953-4176 and Fei, Jie (2024) Lost in Luxury: Climate Change and Silk Consumption in Mid-Qing China (1735–1840 CE). The Professional Geographer. pp. 1-14.

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A quantitative approach has been promoted to understand the history of climate and society. Statistical research on luxurious expenses under climate change in past societies remains insufficient, however. Hence, this study statistically examined the association between climate change and the imperial court’s luxury expenses on silk products in mid-Qing China (1735–1840 CE) by including major ecological–social–economic stresses. Results indicated that the Qing imperial court’s silk consumption increased under favorable climatic conditions and a flourishing agrarian economy, and vice versa. Natural disasters and social crises hardly affected the Qing imperial court’s silk consumption, however, suggesting its limited support and inactive attitude toward ecological–social–economic stresses. Such an institutional weakness might have increased social vulnerability, which could have led to Qing China’s decline since the eighteenth century. The study serves as the first attempt to reveal a long-term historical climate–luxury linkage and further provides a supplementary explanation of the economic decline from the perspective of the history of climate and society. Based on past lessons, this study emphasizes institutional activeness to tackle upcoming climate change challenges.

Item Type: Article
Status: Published
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/00330124.2024.2345883
School/Department: York Business School
URI: https://ray.yorksj.ac.uk/id/eprint/10222

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